Balanced on his feet, legs creating an absolute 90-degree angle to mirror his arms, Dewayne Washington demonstrated flawless form for his Heritage football players.
He also showed the Huskies how to breathe during sprints under 90-degree weather on Tuesday morning.
Besides, he knows a thing or two about training for football.
In the weeks since Washington joined Heritage as its new coach, he’s learned more about the meaning of that special position than the 12 years he spent playing in the NFL.
Throughout his professional career, he’s always had a piece of home with him and visited North Carolina often. Washington was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft and went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs. He even started Carolina Skills Academy, a program to teach area youth the fundamentals of the game.
“This has always been home,” said Washington, who played at N.C. State after graduating from Northern Durham High School.
Acts of service kept him connected to his home state.
But during his three-year tenure as a Ravenscroft football assistant, Washington detected the sure impact of a head coach. Even though his son, D.J. Washington, will enter his senior year at Ravenscroft, he still had to accept the opportunity at Heritage.
D.J., in addition to being his school’s student body president, plays outside linebacker and wide receiver for the Ravens.
“To be honest, I don’t know how much he’ll miss me,” Dewayne Washington said of his son. “I think it was time for us to separate, if you will. I’ve always been there with him, ever since Pop Warner, as his coach. I didn’t really have any reservations about leaving him, especially when he became student body president over there. I knew that was more important than him coming over here and playing some football. We sat down and had a great conversation. He said ‘Hey dad, go. Take advantage of the opportunity, I know this is something you want to do.’ I looked him in his eyes, and I felt from him that it was OK.
“If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have done it.”
So now, Washington wears new colors.
In a light gray Huskies-branded shirt, he was perched on the edge of the grass while the skills group sprinted 40 yards down the jet-black track.
He seemed to have already asserted himself among the group as the Huskies always answered him with a robust “Yes, sir!”
Heritage sophomore quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, who was pulled up for playoffs last season under former coach Jason McGeorge, is a Steelers fan, so he was thrilled when Washington came aboard.
The news of the Washington addition created a buzz, but Holmberg said Washington handled it well.
“I think he wants us to see him as much like a coach, not really a superstar NFL player,” Holmberg said. “He’s really down-to-earth, which is a good part, too. But that experience, you can’t get anywhere else.”
Washington recorded 707 tackles and 31 interceptions in his 12 seasons playing pro football. He also started in 171 games before retiring in 2005.
He said his early coaching influences started on the high school level.
“Coach (Ken) Browning at Northern Durham taught me the most life skills at an early age,” Washington said. “I could have gone either way, but he wrapped his arm around me and really taught me how hard work can pay off.”
With the Huskies, Washington hopes to reciprocate the actions of his high school coach — Ken Browning.
“I’m here to try to be a vital part of your life and get you to wherever you want to go, whatever your dream is,” Washington said of his message for the players. “My dream happened to be the NFL. Your dream could be something different, which is fine.”
Morgan: 919-829-4538; Twitter: @JessikaMorgan